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We all know how important toys are in helping children develop to their fullest potential. From cute baby toys to challenging toys that require complex cognitive processes to toys that stimulate imagination and creativity, there’s simply a toy designed for each developmental need of children. But did you ever stop to think about how toys evolved through time?

Long before LEGO and Fisher-Price loaded the lives of children, toys have already been used even by our prehistoric ancestors. Archeological sites have unearthed a wealth of treasure that contains representations of animals, infants, and even soldiers. There were also miniaturized versions of the earliest tools known to man. Archeologists believe these were the earliest forms of toys.

Small carts, toy monkeys, and whistles that have been shaped like birds have all been excavated from excavation sites believed to have been from a lost civilization in the Indus Valley which existed around 3010 to 1500 BC.

Towards the period of Enlightenment, people’s changing attitudes towards children saw the widespread use of toys. People now consider children as people both in and of themselves instead of being mere extensions of the household. During this period, people understood that children also have the right to flourish, to grow, and to develop to their full potential; but, more importantly, to enjoy their childhood.

This change in attitude spurred the rapid development of toys. By 1767, the first jigsaw puzzle was introduced to the world or more fitting, the world was introduced to the children as the puzzle contained eight themes that featured geography. Around the same time, the iconic rocking horse was also invented. This was designed primarily to help children of affluent English families to learn to maintain balance when riding a horse. Also popular around this time were hoops, kites, puppets, toy wagons, and spinning wheels. Around 1750, the ancestor of modern board games, complete with a dice, was born. In the 1700’s a freer intellectual atmosphere was felt.

And in the new country of America, parents began to think in terms of their children's happiness as well as their moral well-being. This new attitude was reflected in an expanding toy trade and toy shops began to appear. The founding father Benjamin Franklin wrote about a toy store in Boston in 1713 where, for a few coppers, he was able to buy a whistle. In 1785 an advertisement in the Independent Gazetteer of Philadelphia had dolls, drums and toy harps for sale.

By the end of 18th century, the emphasis of toy development was on the educational purpose of the toy. The most popular toys of the time included puzzles, board games, books, and cards. The century also saw the development of optics-based toys such as the kaleidoscope, magic lanterns, and zoetrope.

Whereas today and modern times are known as the golden age of children’s toys development as toymakers now focused on designing toys that are wholesome and are able to provide children with a happy childhood. This still rings true even to this very day. But whether modern times or the 1700’s were the best for toys or now in the digital age.